The Law and the Reformation

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Briefly I want to quote from great Protestant churches and great Protestant leaders concerning their position or regard for the Ten Commandments.

From the book Explanation of Martin Luther's Small Catechism, released by the book committee of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, I read: "How many kinds of laws did God give in the Old Testament? Three kinds:

1. The ceremonial church law.
2. The civil law.
3.. The moral law. Which of these laws is still in force? The moral law, which is contained in the Ten Commandments. Cannot this law be abolished? No; because it is founded on God's holy and righteous nature."

The Church of England, from the 39th article of religion, article 7, says: "Although the law given from God by Moses as touching ceremonies and rites doth not bind Christians, nor ought the civil precepts thereof of necessity be received in any commonwealth; yet notwithstanding, no Christian whatsoever is free from the obedience of the commandments which are called moral."

The Presbyterians, in Westminster Confession of Faith, chapters 19, 20, say: "The moral law doth forever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof; and that not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator who gave it. Neither doth Christ in the gospel any way dissolve, but much strengthen, this obligation."

The Baptist Church in New Hampshire Confession, article 12, says: "We believe that the Law of God is the eternal and unchangeable rule of his moral government; that it is holy, just, and good."

John Calvin wrote: "We must not imagine that the coming of Christ has freed us from the authority of the law: for it is the eternal rule of a devout and holy life, and must, therefore, be as unchangeable, as the justice of God, which it embraced, is constant and uniform."

Matthew Simpson, in his Lectures on Preaching, page 129, wrote: "There are many preachers who love to dwell on the Gospel alone. They talk sweetly and beautifully of the fatherhood of God. This is well. It is more than well, it is essential. But sometimes they go beyond this, and declaim against the preaching of the law-intimate that it belongs to a past age, a less civilized society. . . . Such a Gospel may rear a beautiful structure; but its foundation is on the sand. No true edifice can be raised without its foundations being dug deep by repentance toward God, and then shall the rock be reached, and the building shall be through faith in Jesus Christ. The law without Gospel is dark and hopeless; the Gospel without the law is inefficient and powerless."

John Wesley said, in his Sermons:

In answer to the claim that at the death of Christ the precepts of the Decalogue had been abolished with the ceremonial law, he replied:

"The moral law, contained in the Ten Commandments and enforced by the prophets, He did not take away. It was not the design of His coming to revoke any part of this. This is a law which never can be broken, which 'stands fast as the faithful witness in heaven.' . . . This was from the beginning of the world, being 'written not on tables of stone,' but on the hearts of all the children of men, when they came out of the hands of the Creator. And however the letters once wrote by the finger of God are now in a great measure defaced by sin, yet can they not wholly be blotted out, while we have any consciousness of good and evil. Every part of this law must remain in force upon all mankind, and in all ages; as not depending either on time or place, or any other circumstances liable to change, but on the nature of God, and the nature of man, and their unchangeable relation to each other.
"'I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.' . . . Without question, His meaning in this place is (consistently with all that goes before and follows after),--I am come to establish it in its fullness, in spite of all the glosses of men: I am come to place in a full and clear view whatsoever was dark or obscure therein: I am come to declare the true and full import of every part of it; to show the length and breadth, the entire extent, of every commandment contained therein, and the height and depth, the inconceivable purity and spirituality of it in all its branches."--Wesley, sermon 25

Wesley declared the perfect harmony of the law and the gospel:

"There is, therefore, the closest connection that can be conceived, between the law and the gospel. On the one hand, the law continually makes way for, and points us to, the gospel; on the other, the gospel continually leads us to a more exact fulfilling of the law. The law, for instance, requires us to love God, to love our neighbor, to be meek, humble, or holy. We feel that we are not sufficient for these things; yea, that 'with man this is impossible;' but we see a promise of God to give us that love, and to make us humble, meek, and holy: we lay hold of this gospel, of these glad tidings; it is done unto us according to our faith; and 'the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us,' through faith which is in Christ Jesus. . . .
"In the highest rank of the enemies of the gospel of Christ," said Wesley, "are they who openly and explicitly 'judge the law' itself, and 'speak evil of the law;' who teach men to break (to dissolve, to loose, to untie the obligation of) not one only, whether of the least or of the greatest, but all the commandments at a stroke. . . . The most surprising of all the circumstances that attend this strong delusion, is that they who are given up to it, really believe that they honor Christ by overthrowing His law, and that they are magnifying His office while they are destroying His doctrine! Yea, they honor Him just as Judas did when he said, 'Hail, Master, and kissed Him.' And He may as justly say to every one of them, 'Betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss? It is no other than betraying Him with a kiss, to talk of His blood, and take away His crown; to set light by any part of His law, under pretense of advancing His gospel. Nor indeed can anyone escape this charge, who preaches faith in any such a manner as either directly or indirectly tends to set aside any branch of obedience: who preaches Christ so as to disannul, or weaken in any wise, the least of the commandments of God."-- Ibid . 264

To those who urged that "the preaching of the gospel answers all the ends of the law," Wesley replied:

"This we utterly deny. It does not answer the very first end of the law, namely, the convincing men of sin, the awakening those who are still asleep on the brink of hell." The apostle Paul declares that "by the law is the knowledge of sin;" "and not until man is convicted of sin, will he truly feel his need of the atoning blood of Christ. . . . 'They that be whole,' as our Lord Himself observes, 'need not a physician, but they that are sick.' It is absurd, therefore, to offer a physician to them that are whole, or that at least imagine themselves so to be. You are first to convince them that they are sick; otherwise they will not thank you for your labor. It is equally absurd to offer Christ to them whose heart is whole, having never yet been broken."-- Ibid., sermon 35.

John Wesley in Sermons on Several Occasions, Vol. 1 XXV wrote:

"The moral law contained in the Ten Commandments, and enforced by the prophets, He (Christ) did not take away. It was not the design of His coming to revoke any part of this. This is a law which never can be broken...Every part of this law must remain in force upon all mankind and in all ages; as not depending either on time or place, or any other circumstances liable to change, but on the nature of God and the nature of man, and their unchangeable relation to each other."

G. Campbell Morgan, from his book The Ten Commandments, pages 11, 12, says:

"The Ten Words of Sinai were not ten separate Commandments, having no reference to each other. They were ten sides of the one law of God. The teaching of Jesus reveals the fact that these commandments are so interrelated that if a man offend in one point he breaks the unity of the law, and therefore of his own manhood. . . . These words embody a perfect law of life for probationary days.

The Sunday School Times editorial of January 3, 1914, reads:

"While God remains God, His moral law will be binding upon all who would have any part in His life. God's moral law is eternal; it is an expression of His very being. As such it can no more be abrogated than can God himself.... We must, of course, distinguish clearly between the ceremonial law of the Old Testament and the moral law. The eternal requirements of the moral law are always binding upon God's people."

D.L. Moody, in his book Weighed and Wanting, page 11, says:

"Now men may cavil as much as they like about other parts of the Bible, but I never met an honest man that found fault with the Ten Commandments." He continues, on page 47:

"The Sabbath was binding in Eden, and it has been in force ever since. This fourth commandment begins with the word 'remember,' showing that the Sabbath already existed when God wrote the law on the tables of stone at Sinai. how can men claim that this one commandment has been done away with when they will admit that the other nine are still binding?"

C.H. Spurgeon, in his Sermons, 2nd series, page 280, writes: "The law of God is a divine law, holy, heavenly, perfect. Those who find fault with the law, or in the least degree depreciate it, do not understand its design, and have no right idea of the law itself. Paul says, 'The law is holy, but I am carnal; sold under sin.' In all we ever say concerning justification by faith, we never intend to lower the opinion which our hearers have of the law, for the law is one of the most sublime of God's works. There is not a commandment too many; there is not one too few; but it is so incomparable, that its perfection is a proof of its divinity. No human lawgiver could have given forth such a law as that which we find in the decalogue. It is a perfect law."

Peter H. Eldersveld, radiobroadcaster, in his book Of Law and Love, writes:

"There is nothing wrong with the law. But there is something wrong with us. We know that we should obey it, but we do not obey it. It does not make sense to discard the law just because we break it. And, for that matter, we cannot discard it, no more than we can discard the law of gravity." The law of God has always been held in high reverence.